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The Ups and Downs of Google Levels

google interviews Dec 09, 2021

I worked at Google for five years and I understand this is a very confusing subject for candidates. This article will help you understand how levels are assessed and ultimately decided at Google.

Item #1 – What Are Levels?

Levels at Google are simply a way to classify expectations and responsibilities for the job. Many large corporations—especially in the tech sector—utilize levels because they create structure. It streamlines the recruiting process while also creating better retention among existing employees. Financially speaking, levels help produce more consistent pay scales and management structures.

Item #2 – Years of Experience

The higher the level, the more years of experience, typically. Your starting level at Google will likely be based on how many years of experience in a like or similar role. I came to Google with 13 years of professional experience, but only 4 of those were as a Recruiter. Therefore, I was designated Level 4 (L4) when I was hired for a recruiting position. Here is a quick breakdown of the levels based on years of experience:

  • L3 – Very little experience, from fresh out of college to up to 3 years
  • L4 – 3-10 years experience or completed PhD program
  • L5 – 5-10+ years experience in a relevant position
  • L6 – 10-20 years experience
  • L7 – 12-20+ years experience
  • L8 – 15+ years experience

Which level you fall in will depend on your education, your years of relevant experience at a similar position and other factors. I’ve seen candidates with 20 or more years of experience hired at the middle levels, and I’ve seen those with less experience hired at higher levels. The above is a simple overview of how your experience may relate to your Google level.

Item #3 – Recruiter Conversation

A vast majority of candidates have no idea what level they are interviewing for at Google. It’s a good idea to ask your Recruiter. They will have an idea of the level they are targeting. If they aren’t forthcoming with the information, you can ask in different ways. I like to suggest saying that you think you are interviewing for a certain level. Ask them if it is a fair assumption and gauge the reaction. Even if you don’t walk away knowing the exact level for the position, you should have a general expectation. 

 Item #4 – Level Assessment

How is level being assessed in the Google interview process? Your relevant past experience and your interview performance will be the two most important factors. Your interviewers and the hiring committee are trying to confirm your past experience aligns with the position and the target level. Sometimes, the distinctions are very clear and it’s easy to determine your level. Other times it is simply not as clear. The quality of your interview performance will largely determine your level. Hiring committee will take your interview performance into consideration coupled with the hiring manager statement of support (if applicable) and lastly, align your years of experience. Level is assessed by all these items coming into alignment. If all these items do not align, it can result in no offer at all. 

Item #5 – Down-Leveling vs. Up-Leveling

This is one of the most confusing aspects of the process. The hiring committee will generally be on the conservative side of leveling interview candidates. It’s not uncommon to be down-leveled at this stage in the process. Don’t be discouraged if this happens. This is one way to help set you up for success by getting you motivated and inspired to level up through your job performance. Up-leveling a new hire is much less common at Google, but it can happen if you are a very impressive candidate. They may determine you are ready to come in at a higher level. Up-leveling can also come at the request of the Hiring Manager and Recruiter in the form of an appeal process. But remember the evidence for up-leveling would need to be strong/clear!

Item #6 – Internal Items

Once you’ve made it to Google, you have to understand the requirements for success at your current level. At the same time, you should also be looking ahead to the next level. What are the requirements to be successful at that higher level and what will it take for you to reach it? Have conversations with your Lead, but remember they alone cannot promote you. If and when the time comes to level up, you will be put in front of a promotion committee. It will be a group decision. A majority of promotions happen at the end of the year, while a few may happen off-cycle in the middle of the year.

Ideally, you will want to perform at the next level for at least two quarters before you can expect a promotion. You have to prove yourself capable of meeting those next level requirements in order to reach the next level at a company like Google. You may be performing duties of an L6 while you are still an L3. Doing your job well will determine when you are ready to move up to the higher level(s).

Item #7 – Ego!

The level system can hurt your ego, especially if you are offered a lower level than you hoped. Don’t be hung up on your level when starting at Google. The only things you should care about are compensation and if you want the job. Once you are there, you can stay motivated and keep leveling up. You will achieve higher levels and even better compensation if and when you deserve it. Don’t let your ego stand in your way of a great career opportunity at Google.

Be sure and watch my full video on this topic below:

For more general interview tips and Google-specific topics, please follow my YouTube Channel. You can also sign up on Practice Interviews for access to additional information and coaching resources.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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